FDA commissioner blames budget for agency's woes

WASHINGTON At a conference Wednesday, Food and Drug Administration commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach said that the agency’s ability to protect the health of Americans is at risk because of inadequate funding and increasing responsibilities, according to Bloomberg.

A panel of outside advisers to the agency wrote in a report last year that American lives are in danger because the FDA lacks the funding to keep up with scientific advances. The agency’s budget is more than $2 billion annually. Democratic lawmakers have criticized von Eschenbach for failing to press publicly for more funding.

“Time and again we have asked Commissioner von Eschenbach to tell us what he needs but he has refused,’” said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee, in an e-mail today. “We have asked whether he is satisfied with the administration’s most recent budget proposal, but he wouldn’t comment.”

Stupak has called for von Eschenbach to resign, saying that when Congress gave the FDA a $10 million funding increase, “he doled it out in bonuses to the agency’s political appointee top brass.”

President Bush has proposed increasing the FDA’s budget by 5.7 percent to $2.4 billion for fiscal 2009, and the agency has said von Eschenbach had sought more without saying how much he recommended.

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